Hot on the heels of Burns Night this year comes Chinese New Year, or rather Niu year as it’s the Year of the Ox.
The calender, started by the Xia people circa 2,205 BC, is based on astronomical observations and celebrates the start of the Lunar New Year. Each new year commences on the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice is when the apparent path of the sun reaches it’s lowest point to the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere, which is around December 21st. Depending on the “age” of the moon at this point, the second new moon could arrive any where from 30 to 59 days later.
In the calendar, days are measured by the duration of one self rotation of the earth, months are measured by the duration of the rotation of the moon around the earth and years are measured by the time it takes for the earth to rotate around the Sun.
Most people agree that this year is the 4706th year of the calender (or if you really want to be confused, it could be the 4705th or even the 4645th), but it is fortunately not recorded as a straight number, rather being broken down into two main cycles, one of 12 years (the Chinese animals) and one sexagesimal or of 60 years.
The 60 year cycle is a combination of the 12 animals (Rat, Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Monkey, Dog, Ox, Rabbit, Snake, Sheep, Rooster, Pig), the five elements (metal, wood, earth, fire and water) and either Yin or Yan.
This year, starting 26th January 2009, is Ji Chou, the 10th year of the cycle and is Yin, Earth and Ox.
According to Feng Shui experts, it should be a much better year than 2008. Last year (Earth Rat) was (apparently) marked by the instability of earth over water, whilst this year combines like elements, which portend peace, harmony and recovery. It is a time for healing and reconstruction of the previous damage done to human relationships, ecology and economy. Phew!
All that is left is for me to wish you Kung Hei Fat Choy… Congratulations and be Prosperous!
For further reading, look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_New_Year or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_calendar